And yet, that's what our task of the day was. We learned about Islam (Malaysia's official religion) and how to chat with a Muslim about Jesus in a way that's informed and respectful. That's right -- respectful. All evangelism is, I would say, about meeting a person where they're at and sharing what I consider to be true about Jesus and the Bible. And if I believe that those who don't know Jesus will live an empty life of striving and ultimate despair before being forever separated from God's peace after death, isn't it an act of love to share those beliefs with others? I think it is, as long as I'm not trying to shove my religion down others' throats or force conversion or something ridiculous like that. That is not an act of love.
I learned a bunch of interesting things about Islam and the Koran during this evangelism pow-wow. Apparently, the Koran talks about how Allah (God) has a son born to a human woman (Mary) through his Spirit, and that that son is Isa al Masih (Jesus the Messiah). The Koran actually says , from my understanding, that this Isa is the messiah will redeem the world through his life, death, and resurrection! Amazing! Unfortunately, a lot of Muslims don't know this because they haven't read the entire Koran, and this information is not shared by Muslim leaders in the mosques. I learned some other intriguing facts. For example, the Prophet is only referred to by name five times in the Koran, while Jesus is referred to twenty-five times. Mary is honored as a "woman of all nations" and has an entire chapter of the Koran dedicated to her (chapter 3) while the Prophet's own mother is nowhere to be found. Something to think about, for sure.
Armed with this new knowledge, we took a bus downtown and split up into pairs. We were given a few hours to eat, wander, and try to share the Gospel with people that we met. How did this task make me feel? Terrified. I don't really feel comfortable striking up random conversations here at home about innocuous topics, much less sharing my beliefs about Jesus with strangers from a different religion and culture in a country where over evangelism is illegal. Still, my partner and I gave it our best shot.
We ate (I tried claypot chicken, which is a surprisingly tasty and nutritious broth-based soup that had noodles, some greens, fish balls, and an egg in it, all boiled in the titular claypot over an open flame), prayed, and then began to wander. We started in this vast mall -- and I do mean vast. I was born and raised in New Jersey, or "the mall state," and even I was blown away by the enormity of this place. We began chatting with two women working at a booth selling belts. One was from Indonesia, and the other was a Musliam Malay engaged to a Chinese Hindu who was preparing to convert to Islam. This type of a relationship mix is not too common in Malaysia, and I asked the girl what her parents thought. I don't think she understood, and she invited me to come clubbing with her. I think I made her laugh a little!
We also visited with a university business student waiting for a ride outside the mall, and then with a Chinese Hindu fabric shop clerk. Our interactions with the clerk were the most interesting of the day, to my mind. I told her that I was buying cloth for my mom, who loves to sew. Then the woman started talking all about her family, her faith, and how there are many different people and so many different ways to know God. But then she stopped and told me that I was a very happy person. I certainly didn't feel overly happy at the moment, more nervous, and I thanked her. She didn't stop there, though. The woman went on and on about how cheerful I was and how anyone who was my friend would surely be very happy. I told her that if I seem happy, it's got to be Jesus, because I certainly can't pull myself out of my own darkness or despair. I'm not sure if she understood, but I was intrigued. Our interaction made me think of this verse:
"You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.
No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house" (Matt. 5:14-15).
Then we traveled back up to the top of the market -- via a rather terrifying but hilarious rickshaw ride with an exuberant driver! -- for a massage. Massages are super cheap in Malaysia. This was the first professional massage that I've ever had, and I was surprised at how rough it felt. Also, I felt so ridiculous that I didn't enjoy it all that much. Still, we got to know the man who owned the business fairly well, and ended up visiting once more before leaving. Tourism is down due to the economy, so he really appreciated us spreading the word about his business as well as our repeat patronage. On our way back to the hotel, we stopped by a touristy seafood restaurant that touts a cultural show and live fish that you can select from for your meal. A featured dish on the menu was live stir-fried eel. No, thanks. I like my food good and dead before its cooked.